Tag Archives: Marrakech

Jardin Majorelle : Oasis of calm

Occupying a site to the north of the Medina and to the east of the ‘New Town’ created by French colonialists at the start of the 20th Century, the Jardin Majorelle is an oasis of calm and serenity amidst the chaos of Marrakech. The garden was originally laid out by Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s, and it was first opened to the public in 1947. Following Majorelle’s death in 1962, the garden was abandoned, and the entire plot was earmarked for development until it was purchased by Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent in 1980. Berge and Saint Laurent set about the task of restoring and extending the garden, converting Majorelle’s former painting studio into a museum of Berber art, clothing and jewellery, and introducing new plants from around the globe. When Saint Laurent died in 2008, Berge established a Foundation to take over the running of the garden and stipulated that the profits from it should be used to support cultural, educational and social projects in Morocco or for the direct benefit of Moroccan nationals.

It’s a magical place, a literal ‘world within the world’ of the city of Marrakech. Surrounded by the high, reddish-brown adobe walls that typify the city, the space within is green and cool, with dappled light falling softly onto winding pathways between planting that is almost zen-like in its precision. Running through the centre of the garden, an artificial stream brings an architectural formality to the otherwise organic form of the paths and planting, and the sound of water running along the stream and falling from the fountain in the header pool, adds to the sense of peace. It’s a ‘must-see’ if you ever have the good fortune to find yourself with a couple of hours to spare in this amazing city.

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The ‘entrance hall’ of the garden – a place to pause for a moment before entering the larger spaces beyond

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The dappled light and the vividly coloured pots that are the hallmarks of the space

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It’s hard to believe that the bustle of the city is just 5 minutes in any direction

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Splashes of colour against the green of the palms and succulents – less is definitely more

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The red of the walls sets off the green of the planting and the cobalt and yellow of the pots

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The fountain in the header pool for the stream that runs straight through the centre of the garden

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The memorial to Yves Saint Laurent, responsible with Pierre Berge for saving the garden and restoring it to its former glory

200@50 January Update

To start with the stats. I’ve completed 23.8 official race miles, ranging from the First Mile of the Year at Centerparcs, Longleat, to the 13.1 mile half marathon in Marrakech. In addition, I’ve completed 25.3 training miles, bringing my total mileage for the month to 49.1 miles. Across the total mileage, my average pace has been 5.29 miles an hour. I completed three Cardiff parkrun events in January, reducing my time to complete the 3.2 mile course by 2 minutes 15 seconds across the month. I am on track to achieve my target of a 25 minute parkrun by the end of the year.

Now for the colour. Without doubt the highlight of the month was the Marrakech Half Marathon, run on Sunday 31st January under a cloudless sky in temperatures that peaked at around 20 degrees C at the finish. It was a lovely course – flat and wide, starting near the walls of the old city before leading us out through olive trees and parkland towards the airport, and then bringing us back in to the old town and around the walls to the finish. There was a lovely relaxed party atmosphere before the start of the run, with groups of runners from Germany, Holland, France and various parts of Morocco all taking turns to sing, dance and generally have a good time. The sense of fun was maintained throughout the run as locals and visitors alike lined the route, encouraging the runners. The local children in particular kept up a noisy barrage of cheering and applause, with many of the runners responding responding by ‘high-fiving’ as many of the kids as possible along the route.

The organisation of the event was generally pretty good. Roads were well-marshalled for the most part, and traffic was kept well away from the runners (not an easy task in a city where – as far as we could tell – any idea of a highway code has long since been abandoned in favour of absolute anarchy!). We had been promised water stations at 5km, 10km and 15km before the race, and it was reassuring to arrive at the 5km mark to see plentiful stocks of bottled water being handed out. Unfortunately, this engendered a false sense of security, because that was the last water I saw until I crossed the finish line! Charlotte – running 5 or 6 minutes behind me – did manage to get some water from a fresh batch that had just arrived at the 15km station, but by then the damage had been done for both of us. The last two miles were especially hard work for me, with the temperature rising and dehydration adding to the soreness in my legs. Up until that point, I had been on target for a 2:30 finish – about what I’d hoped for given the relatively limited preparation for the event. In the end, having slowed considerably from about the 10.5 mile mark, my Fitbit recorded my finish at 2 hours 39 minutes (the official race time, which registered from the starting gun rather than the time we crossed the start line, was 2 hours 45).

It is with sadness that I have to report that one runner (from Holland) collapsed shortly after completing the Half Marathon and – despite the best efforts of local medical staff and a speedy transfer to hospital – he did not recover consciousness and died later in the day. This sort of tragedy is not unknown even at the most well-organised events, but it is hard not to wonder whether the shortage of water on the course may have played a part.

We didn’t manage to get very many photos of the day itself (one of the drawbacks of being there on our own) but we did manage a ‘selfie’ just after the finish when we weren’t looking too distressed!


At the finish – you can just see the inflatables at the finish line over Charlotte’s right shoulder

The one massive advantage that comes with running a half marathon as part of a winter sun holiday is the quality of the warm-down arrangements after the race. Our hotel pool was perfect for this, and I’ve never been more happy to jump in than I was that afternoon!


If Carlsberg did warm downs…!

Finally for now, a huge thank you to everybody who has already sponsored me in this challenge. I am raising money for the British Heart Foundation and I am delighted to report that – through your generosity – over £250 has already been pledged for this great charity. If you would like to make your own contribution, you can do so here : Andrew’s Justgiving page


200 for 50

This is a red letter year for me. By the time February starts, I will have celebrated my 50th birthday. This seems odd on a number of levels. First, because I distinctly remember thinking as a 12 year old that 50 was incredibly old and a long, long way into the future. And that only seems like yesterday. And second, because I honestly don’t feel any ‘older’now than I did when I was 25, 30 or 40. True, I can’t shake off the weight in the way that I used to be able to; and I ache a bit longer after running, refereeing, or getting up out of the chair too quickly, but for the most part, I still think of myself in pretty much the same way I did when I was half my current age. For now, I’ll take solace in the apparent fact that 50 is the new 40 and leave it at that.

However, I can’t let my 50th year pass without some acknowledgement. I’ve therefore decided to set myself a personal challenge of completing 200 officially measured and verified running race miles through a series of events throughout 2016. The challenge (catchily titled 200 for 50) began with the First Mile of 2016 at Centerparcs, Longleat, and on Saturday, I completed my first Cardiff parkrun of the year. So I’m already up to 4.2 miles and we’re barely out of double figures in the year!

The first big step towards the challenge comes on 31st January in Marrakech when I will be aiming to complete the Half Marathon on my first visit to the city. In truth, this one is likely to be a sedate affair, more like a speeded up sight-seeing tour than a serious run, but it will at least set down some benchmarks against which I can measure progress (and hopefully improvement) at other half marathons later in the year.

I’ll record my progress towards the target here and on my Just Giving page here : https://www.justgiving.com/200-4-50

I’m raising money for the British Heart Foundation through the challenge, and if you feel moved to do, you can sponsor me through the Just Giving page. I’m also asking friends and family who might otherwise have thought about buying a present for my birthday to make a donation to the BHF instead.

I’ve chosen the British Heart Foundation because I am privileged to work at the University of Bristol which receives excellent financial support from the Foundation for its research into all aspects of heart disease and improvements in treatment for those diagnosed with heart problems. Again, I’ll write more about the research and the support that the BHF provides as the year goes along.

Right – back to the training!